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CHF and J/P HRO – We Clear the Rubble, Haitians Rebuild their Lives

Published 08/22/2011 by Global Communities

CHF and J/P HRO – We Clear the Rubble, Haitians Rebuild their Lives
By David Humphries, Director of Communications
One of the oft-repeated criticisms of the response to the Haiti earthquake is that of well-meaning but inexperienced responders who didn’t know the environment of Haiti. But the fact is that with the right level of passion and the willingness to learn, some of those new responders have made a huge difference. CHF is approaching its 60th anniversary, while J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO) is about 18 months old. But the two organizations have partnered in Haiti to make a big difference to the communities of Bel Air and Delmas 32.
CHF and J/P HRO work together on rubble removal. With funding from USAID, CHF is implementing the CLEAN project. This is a debris removal project that is working in coordination with shelter-building NGOs. Where an NGO plans to build shelters for a community, CHF goes in and clears the debris to make it a safe, stable space for shelters to be constructed. In the badly damaged areas of Delmas 32 and Bel Air, J/P HRO is undertaking this work for CHF.
J/P HRO is best known for its CEO, Sean Penn, but has also quickly carved out a reputation for determination and commitment that is matched by excellent results. Last week, several members of CHF were given a tour of J/P HRO’s rubble removal sites by Sean Penn, Benjamin Krause, J/P HRO’s country director and several of their national staff. We visited their offices in each community and their program managers explained their approach. Both CHF and J/P HRO are implementing ‘cash for production’ rather than ‘cash for work’. Cash for work – paying a daily rate to community members for rubble removal – is a vital approach that provides both clean-up and injects cash into a damaged economy. But now that we are beyond the immediate stages of the disaster, cash for production is a more effective model. In this approach, we employ community members to remove debris, but they are paid for how much they remove. The upshot is that we have a results-focused workforce who, on average, are more productive and consequently earn more than cash for work.
The J/P HRO team showed us sites where rubble had been removed, where great Caterpillar heavy machinery were tearing through remaining sites, and where houses due to be demolished had been prepared with jousts to hold them up and ensure the safety of the workers as the tenuous work begins – demolishing a house can be a dangerous and complicated process.
As we finished our tour after five hours in the blistering Haitian sun, I asked Sean Penn what sight he had seen in the recovery process that had most affected him. He looked around and said: “This place. Not long ago, it was piles of debris with one or two people picking through the remains. Now look at it.” Surrounding us were shops, vehicles, people going about their business, families, children, domestic animals – everything one expects to see in a busy city in the developing world. We clear the rubble, but it is the Haitian people who rebuild their lives.